Why is communion only for believers?

(Werner Bartel) #1

Hi everyone, could you please explain why most churches state that communion is for believers only and not seekers. Thank you for taking my question and God bless you all at RZIM.

(SeanO) #2

@Werner There are two main reasons communion is for believers only:

1 - It is a celebration of our participation in the death and resurrection of Christ as His Body, the Church, but unbelievers are not in Christ nor are they members of His Body
2 - Some point to the warnings in 1 Cor 11 about the dangers of taking communion in an unworthy manner, which is inevitable for someone who does not believe because we are only worthy in Christ. However, this passage may refer more to believers who are being judged for their mistreatment of other believers (the rich were not treating the poor in a worthy manner).

1 Cor 10:16-17 - Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

1 Cor 11:27-30 - So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.

Communion, or common union, is born out of union with Christ. Only those in union with Christ have fellowship with Him. They share in His body and His blood and are consequently united to Him (John 6:56). The unconverted has no fellowship with Christ. The unconverted has no union with Him. There is no promise of Christ’s abiding with him. He has no portion in the body of Christ broken or the blood of Christ shed. Consequently, there can be no sharing in the elements that signify the person and work of Christ for the church (1 Cor. 11:24). The converted, on the other hand, discern that such are the blessings of being united to Christ.

The Lord’s Supper is an act of the gathered family of those who believe in Jesus, the church. It is not an act for unbelievers. Unbelievers may be present—indeed, we welcome them to be present—there is nothing secretive about the Lord’s Supper. It is done in public. It has a public meaning. It is not a secretive, cultic ritual with magical powers. It is a public act of worship by the gathered church. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11:26, Paul says, “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

(Werner Bartel) #3

Great answer! Thank you very much, Werner

(SeanO) #4

@Werner Indeed - glad it was helpful :slight_smile:

(Steven M Levine) #5

I may be going a bit off topic here, and I apologize if I am. Sean made great points for the person accepting communion. I am the pastor of a small church, and I can tell you that it would have to be extraordinary circumstances for me to deny giving communion to someone.

#1 I would need to have first hand knowledge that the person was a seeker and not, in fact a Christian.

#2 I would need to have first hand knowledge that the person was in a place in their lives where they were actively engaged in sin. And, in that case, a conversation with that person prior to communion service even started, would have to take place. So, for instance, and this hasn’t happened, but lets say I knew that a particular person was actively engaged in adultery. But, rather than potentially humiliate the person at the altar, a conversation citing the scriptures that Sean gave to us prior to the service starting.

My particular denomination has open communion. I do not ask visitors, or seekers, to find out their status as a believer, when I am at the altar. At that point, I believe that it is between them and God as to whether they accept communion.

(SeanO) #6

@smlevine75 In the Churches I’ve attended, the Pastor generally gives a short word making it clear that communion is for believers who are walking with Jesus and then trusts only those doing so to partake. I’ve never been anywhere that actually tried to actively prevent someone from taking it, though as a Pastor I can see how there may be situations where you know someone is engaging in immoral behaviors and need to intervene privately. I do think it is important to mention the seriousness of communion before giving it.

(Werner Bartel) #7

Hi Sean and Steven, thank you both for your thorough answers. Our church has open communion as well and anyone who is in a right relationship with the Lord Jesus is welcome to participate in communion. It is between the individual and the Lord. We were asking the question for someone who is no longer attending because of this.

We so appreciate RZIM.

Blessings, Werner and Jo-Anne